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WTA Sydney 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips - Kerber aims to defend Sydney title in star-studded field littered with slam champions

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 5 Jan 2019
  • The 2019 Sydney International is live from Sydney's Olympic Park between January 7-12
  • Halep, Kerber, Stephens, Kvitova and more headline a star-studded draw
Angelique Kerber (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Seven major champions and seven of the world’s top 10 WTA stars converge at the Sydney International for the last big battleground before the Australian Open in a blockbuster draw this week, live from Sydney between January 7-12.

(geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)

World No. 1 Simona Halep returns to action for her first tournament since October as she opens her 2019 season at the Sydney International, alongside World No. 2 and defending champion Angelique Kerber and fellow top 10 stars Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens and Daria Kasatkina.

Traditionally one of the strongest WTA Premier events of the season, the depth of the Sydney International field is once again immense, with several mouth-watering early round showdowns, with the likes of Aryna Sabalenka, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova - the World No. 11 - unseeded.

Read on below as we break down the draw and predict who will emerge from each quarter.

First quarter

Projected quarter-final: Simona Halep (1) vs Karolina Pliskova (6) - H2H: Halep leads 6-3

Simona Halep (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)


A bit of uncertainty surrounds Simona Halep as she launches her 2019 season down under, with the World No. 1 searching for her first wins since Cincinnati in August after a back injury plagued her during the Asian swing at the end of last season and forced her out of the WTA Finals Singapore. Halep has a bye in the first round before facing the winner of 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko or last year’s Sydney runner-up Ashleigh Barty - both of whom will provide a formidable challenge.

At the time of writing, Karolina Pliskova is into the Brisbane final to face Lesia Tsurenko - and, incredibly, the pair have been drawn to face each other in the opening round of Sydney, however there’s a decent chance one or both will withdraw to avoid fatigue and overplaying one week before the Australian Open. It makes this section difficult to predict, but the other match in this quarter - Anett Kontaveit vs Elise Mertens - could decide who emerges from it, especially if Halep is rusty in her first tournament of the year. It’s hard to say, but the chance is there for Barty to go deep in Sydney once again.

Predicted semi-finalist: Barty

Second quarter

Projected quarter-final: Sloane Stephens (4) vs Kiki Bertens (7) - H2H: Stephens leads 2-0

Sloane Stephens (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)


Both Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens bowed out relatively early in Brisbane last week and will be targeting a deep run in Sydney to build up some confidence before the Australian Open. Stephens has a solid draw to do just that, beginning her campaign against a qualifier before a possible second round encounter with home hope Daria Gavrilova or another qualifier. Meanwhile, Bertens has received a tough path out of this section, drawing World No. 11 Anastasija Sevastova in the first round - and if she survives that clash, either Garbine Muguruza or Carla Suarez Navarro will be waiting in the second.

Bertens also hasn’t beaten Stephens in two previous meetings, including at the end of 2018 in the WTA Finals semi-finals. Muguruza wasn’t particularly convincing at the Hopman Cup, so I think this section could come down to Sevastova - who I think will beat Bertens - and Stephens. It all hinges on the American sinking her teeth into the tournament, but if she can navigate her way into the quarters, I believe she will be making it to the final four.

Predicted semi-finalist: Stephens

Third quarter

Projected quarter-final: TBA vs Daria Kasatkina (8)

Dominika Cibulkova (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)


This is a very open quarter due to third seed Naomi Osaka withdrawing after the draw was made - and at the time of writing, she still hasn’t been replaced, but a yet-to-be-determined lucky loser is set to take her place. That’s good news for her opening round opponent Timea Bacsinszky, who now has a great chance to reach the quarter-finals, with the former French Open semi-finalist set to meet the winner of Dominika Cibulkova and Sam Stosur if she makes the second round.

Daria Kasatkina, who suffered a shock first round loss in Brisbane to Kimberly Birrell to start her season, has landed in a section littered with qualifiers - she won’t face a non-qualifier until the quarter-finals. However, the Russian has never really played well in Australia and certainly isn’t guaranteed to make it that far, especially with some strong names in the qualifying draw. It’s very possible that one of the four qualifiers/lucky losers make it all the way to the semi-finals in this section, but as is stands, I’m going to lean with former Australian Open runner-up Cibulkova.

Predicted semi-finalist: Cibulkova

Fourth quarter

Projected quarter-final: Angelique Kerber (2) vs Petra Kvitova (5) - H2H: Level at 6-6

Angelique Kerber (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)


Arguably the strongest quarter, with World No. 2 and defending champion Angelique Kerber fresh off another brilliant Hopman Cup showing for Germany in Perth, while the biggest opening round blockbuster sees 2015 champion Petra Kvitova take on recently-crowned Shenzhen Open winner and rising star Aryna Sabalenka. A lot will depend on how Sabalenka backs up from playing two matches in one day in Shenzhen (where the temperatures were very cold), with the turnaround to the sweltering Sydney conditions extremely quick, while Kvitova will be determined to improve on a disappointing second round exit in Brisbane to Anett Kontaveit.

As she did last year, Kerber won all four singles matches for Germany at the Hopman Cup, and now she will be aiming to replicate her success in Sydney from last season, where she beat Ash Barty in the final to claim the title. Kerber could face another Australian in Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round after a first round bye (or the dangerous Camila Giorgi, who has played well in Sydney in the past). We also can’t discount the unorthodox Su-Wei Hsieh, who could easily cause havoc for the winner of Kvitova vs Sabalenka in the second round.

Predicted semi-finalist: Kerber

Tournament predictions

Semi-finals

Stephens def. Barty
Kerber def. Cibulkova

Final

Kerber def. Stephens

*****

The 2019 Sydney International is live from Sydney between January 7-12.


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WTA Sydney 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips - Kerber aims to defend Sydney title in star-studded field littered with slam champions

Seven major champions and seven of the world’s top 10 WTA stars converge at the Sydney International for the last big battleground before the Australian Open in a blockbuster draw this week, live from Sydney between January 7-12.

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